2023 Barging France Yonne, River

Cruising to the DBA Rally (1/06 – 11/07)

Migennes – Joigny – Gurgy – Auxerre

Shakedown Cruise

Finally, ten weeks after I arrived and five weeks after Lisette joined me, we were more than ready for some cruising. Catharina Elisabeth looked fabulous and marvellously dressed with Lisette’s colourful flowers. The day before leaving, we dropped back from our regular mooring place to be in the empty waiting spot beneath Simon’s crane, ready for an easy departure.

Bright and early, we were treated to the delicious sound of the DAF which started up beautifully and, leaving a haze of smoke behind us, with a few toots of the horn, we were on our way down the Yonne. The feeling was indescribably good. Two locks and under two hours later, the now familiar view of the Église St Jean, the Pont Saint Nicolas and the vineyards behind hove into view.

Beyond the bridge, we passed the marina where we could see not one, not two but three boats of people we knew. Jalibe with our Melbourne friends Brett and Simone, Mon Ami with Judy and Bob whom we have met many times and the Green Boat of Olivier and Marion. Any thoughts of being lonely at our mooring, just a couple of hundred metres downstream, evaporated.

Jalibe with the black tarpaulin on the bow, Mon Ami with the blue cover and the frame of the Green Boat almost hidden behind Mon Ami.

We were soon settled into our familiar mooring opposite the two-star Michelin restaurant ‘La Côte Saint-Jacques’. Nice view of those with pockets deep enough to enjoy it. We made a quick trip to the marina where fellow Melbournians Brett and Simone were ‘summerising’ Jalibe as they were returning to Oz the next day. We then had a chat with Olivier and finally, a drink on Mon Ami with Judy and Bob.

This set the scene for the next few days. We continued to do a bit of touch-up paint work but were constantly distracted by the passing and arrival of numerous barges heading towards the rally. Because the DBA rally was to be held just upstream of us, and the majority of attendees were travelling there by coming up the Yonne, we were treated to a procession of fellow Rally attendees. Of course, a number wanted to stop and our two berth mooring was generally doubled up to make four berths. Naturally, that led to numerous opportunities for aperos and shared meals in the afternoons and evenings. Here are just a few of the barges that either passed or joined us at Joigny:

Wendy and Dave on 'Otium'
Friz and Nell on 'Shell V'
Lon and Pat on C.A.R.I.B. III
PJ and Dieta on 'Zeemeeuw'
Jeannie and Jonathan on 'Aleau'
Caroline and Ian on 'Neeltje'
Wendy and Dave on 'Otium'

One afternoon, Muriel and Didier, our French friends, drove past in their car and invited us to join them for dinner that evening in Joigny along with Simon and Norbert. During the conversations, we found out that a folding chair Ian had ordered had been delivered to the shipyard. After a bit of discussion, we hit on the idea that instead of mooring at the yard to pick it up, Norbert was happy to put it aboard his dinghy and ferry it out to us as we passed. Sounded like a bit of fun!

We were especially pleased to have our great friends Jonathan and Jeannie on the Aleau cruise up and moor beside us. We had only seen them briefly last year and we were looking forward to an extended catchup both at Joigny and at the Rally.

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The earliest arrival date for the Rally was on the 11 July and so, on the 8th we set off for a short, one-day cruise to Gurgy so we could spend a couple of nights waiting there before taking an equally short cruise into Auxerre for the start of the rally. With four barges on ‘our’ mooring and several others scattered around Joigny, it was quite a convoy heading for Gurgy.

So many that, at the second of the two écluses, Épineau, which is still quite large, but slightly smaller, we had to split up into two groups.

Catharina was near the front.

After the second lock, we turned the corner at Migennes and passed under the railway bridge. Alert to our approach, Norbert and his dog Leroy sped out from Norbert’s barge and skillfully delivered the package.

Fortunately, Jeannie on Aleau was in just the right position to capture the event on video.

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So we continued, with only a slight delay as one of the gates at an écluse refused to open and the éclusier instructed us to exit via the one open gate. While it did look like a tight fit for most of us, even the most beamy of our group (Aleau) managed to squeeze through so there was no delay.

C.A.R.I.B. III safely exiting the lock.

Eventually, we arrived at the popular, capacious but now utterly packed mooring at Gurgy. Over that day and the next, more and more barges arrived until there were seven of us, destined for the Rally, packed three deep. It was a splendid way to get to meet many more of our fellow DBA members before the rush of the Rally.

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That said, we always keep alert to catch up with other cruisers. Moored just in front of us was a Canadian-flagged boat, Thetis. I called out to them and was soon aboard chatting with Bruce and Ofelia. Although DBA members, they weren’t attending the Rally but heading downstream. Ophelia was a keen cook and was just completing the transition from one edition of her favourite cookbooks to a newer one, the enormous and comprehensive New York Times Cookbook. Not wishing to deny Lisette the opportunity to join in, we arranged to meet in the evening on Catharina. Having picked up that Lisette was a keen cook, Ofelia very generously gifted her the previous edition of this very famous collection of recipes – we will never want for ideas in the future.

The highlight, for me, was that uncanny intertwining of the cruising stories. Bruce’s father had served in the RAF during the war with Hart Massey. Hart wrote one of the definitive books on barging, ‘Travels with Lionel‘, in the late 80’s (and another sequel).

We’ve since crossed Lionel in two incarnations and two owners,

Catharina next to Rouge Corsair at Ypres in 2016 – just about to become Lionel… d’Antan.

most recently last year in Migennes. Back to Bruce: when his father was looking for a retirement activity, Hart suggested to him that he might enjoy cruising in France. This eventually led to Thetis, now moored in front of us. The echoes of Lionel keep reverberating.

We confirmed the news from last year that the restaurant in Gurgy where we had celebrated Lisette’s birthday was now closed. However, I finally made it, briefly, into the church. We must have been moored at Gugry nearly ten times and never found it open. They were closing the church so I didn’t even have time to check for any references to Joan of Arc – curses.

Two nights, plenty of socialising, swimming, even watching a leg of the Tour de France with Fritz and Nell on Shell V and we were ready to leave on our last leg to Auxerre for the start of the Rally. Two days had been assigned to allow boats to arrive and be set in their moorings. A short, familiar cruise ensued in convoy with a couple of the barges around us. We managed to pass through the centre of Auxerre and under the Paul Bert bridge to arrive at the first official lock of the Nivernais just before déjeuner. By good fortune one of our DBA friends was on hand to record our approach to the écluse providing us with a rare video of Catharina underway.

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We were ushered into our mooring by our Melbourne friend Howard (on Moondance with wife Deb) who had volunteered to manage the moorings. Our Canadian friends on Aleau were astern and in front was another of our Melbourne mates, Bruce on Matilda.

In the comfort of old friends and looking forward to making many more, the Rally was about to begin.

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